Business Blogs – A Metaphor

I have been asked often what I think about writing Inside VT KnowledgeWorks, the blog for business accelerator VT KnowledgeWorks, about business blogs in general, and about whether or not I think all businesses need blogs.

I’ll address these questions in a series of blog posts.  But to provide a context, the closest I can come to describing the phenomenon of a business blog is to use the metaphor of a dinner party.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I invited three other married couples, all of whom did not know each other, to dinner.

Two important points to note:

1) Choice. Our guests chose to come. As the dinner progressed, they chose to stay. More globally, they had chosen, and continued to choose, to stay married. That sounds amusing, but all these choices created a sense of communal trust and goodwill. Every visitor to a Web site or a blog has similar choices. If they’re not having a good time, they’ll choose to leave.

2) Connection. Just as our guests had not met before, the visitors to a business blog don’t know the writer or writers, don’t know the blog’s readers, don’t know the blog’s guest writers, don’t know those who leave comments on the blog’s posts, and don’t know the links leading out or the links leading in. People go to blogs, and to dinner parties, to connect. Blog writers use their content to facilitate connection. To facilitate connection at their dinner parties, hosts use an intimacy-enhancing furniture arrangement, good food and good drink (akin to good content), and specific introductions that link people to each other ("Sue, I’d like you to meet Betty. Betty just got a shiatsu puppy. You have a shiatsu, don’t you?").

To continue the business blog-dinner party metaphor, if one were to take a bird’s eye view of the room, and imagine the words spoken below as text, the scene becomes blog-like.

The stories each person tells are paragraphs, and the elaboration and collaboration others offer are links. Imagine this conversation among eight people at a dinner table:

"What do you do?" "I’m a geologist at Tech." "I minored in Geology at Tech." "Did you know Dr. Craig?" "Yes, he was the best!" "I had him for Intro." "I took Intro., but I went to UVA." "Boo, hiss! Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!" "UVA has the most gorgeous campus." "I love to bike in Charlottesville." "You bike?" "Yes, I bike…"

Here’s the same text as a blog entry:

"What do you do?" "I’m a geologist at Tech." "I minored in Geology at Tech." "Did you know Dr. Craig?" "Yes, he was the best!" "I had him for Intro." "I took Intro., but I went to UVA." "Boo, hiss!  Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!" "UVA has the most gorgeous campus." "I love to bike in Charlottesville." "You bike?" "Yes, I bike…"

If this group meets again, they’ll probably start with, "Remember when…" and that new conversation, like a blog entry, will link back to a previous conversation, also like a blog entry.

Most personal blogs are written primarily to share the writer’s experiences and to connect with the like-hearted or like-minded.

Business blogs are written for those reasons, plus one more: Business blog writers hope their content will inspire readers to take positive action of some kind, whether it’s buying a product, applying for a job with the company, or contributing to a cause the business supports.

The next day, two of the wives, who had never met before, went on a bike ride together.

That action may result from connection-building conversation is how a business blog is like a dinner party.

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